By Temidayo Akinboyo
The September 19 gubernatorial election in Edo State has come and gone, won and lost, according to the results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The win is as exciting to the winners as the loss is heart-wrenching to the losers.
The winner of the Edo gubernatorial tussle, Godwin Obaseki, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), garnered 307,955 votes to defeat his main challenger, Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who garnered 223,619 votes.
Mr Obaseki had defected to the PDP from the APC when he was disqualified from participating in the APC governorship primary election over alleged irregularities in his academic qualifications. Many saw his disqualification as high-handed, wondering why the party that gave him the platform to contest in 2016 would deny him the same platform barely four years later.
His disqualification, which paved the way for the emergence of Mr Ize- Iyamu as the candidate of the APC, was, however, largely interpreted as a strategy for Adams Oshiomhole, former national chairperson of the APC, to take his own pound of flesh from Mr Obaseki following their seeming irreconcilable political differences.
Mr Obaseki became the candidate of the APC in the 2016 governorship election and eventually governor of Edo State largely as a result of the efforts of Mr Oshiomhole. Along the line, Messrs Oshiomhole and Obaseki fell apart for whatever reasons.
Expectedly, the PDP has been jubilating over its victory while the APC is crying foul, alleging irregularities in the election which saw Mr Obaseki defeating Mr Ize-Iyamu in 13 of the 18 local government areas of the state.
Meanwhile, the INEC, police and other stakeholders concerned have been hailed for conducting a significantly hitch-free election in the South-south state.
As usual, while the winners – Mr Obaseki, the PDP and their supporters – have started counting their blessings, the losers are mourning their loss in their closets.
One of the losers in the election, Bola Tinubu, a former Governor of Lagos State and a national leader of the APC, has been identified as one of the forces that caused the APC and its candidate, Mr Ize-Iyamu, to lose the election.
Mr Tinubu’s recorded video
A few days to the election, Mr Tinubu made and circulated a video wherein he called Mr Obaseki a dictator. He appealed to the Edo electorates to reject the governor at the polls. He also described himself as the leader of all democrats in the country, an appellation that angered some leading politicians and political observers in the country.
According to some commentators, the video irked a preponderance of Edo voters who further resolved that they would vote Mr Obaseki to disgrace Mr Tinubu. And they truly did, as they promised.
The Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki
Luckily for Mr Obaseki, his supporters weaponised the video and used it massively to demarket the candidate of the APC, saying Edo is not Lagos, a message that resonated well with the voters who used their votes to seal the fate of Mr Ize-Iyamu according to an earlier analysis did by PREMIUM TIMES.
Bolaji Okusaga, a public relations expert, said Mr Tinubu’s video was needless and tactless. He said Mr Tinubu should not have released it.
Mr Okusaga said: “APC did everything to undo itself in Edo, but I reckon that video claiming fatherhood of democracy and asking Edo people to reject a particular candidate was the last straw.”
Mr Okusaga’s sentiment was reinforced by Temitope Ajayi, a public affairs commentator.
Mr Ajayi said the video from Lagos (referring to Mr Tinubu) did not help matters in Edo, too, saying “it fits properly into the narrative of protest against a ‘godfather.”
He said the video by Mr Tinubu was a wrong move which played into the hands of those using the godfather narrative to pummel the APC candidate. “It probably also helped undecided voters to take a position against Pastor Ize-Iyamu. Local sentiments are important factors to consider in election,” he said.
Continuing, Mr Ajayi, a sympathiser of the APC, said, however, “people should not get it twisted. The idea of a godfather in politics, as in other vocations, is not bad in itself. Godfathers are like helpers and giants whose shoulders others stand on to rise. We all need godfathers in different forms.
“We should not weaponise it to mean evil or something sinister. Catholics have the culture of godfather to a newborn or one who sponsors wedding for a younger person.
“Fact is nobody can win election alone without the help of others in different ways it can manifest. For those who said Oshiomhole and Asiwaju are godfathers that Edo people rejected, does it mean they rejected two godfathers to embrace other godfathers in Wike, Ikimi and other forces that helped Obaseki?” he asked.
Failing to learn from history
From all indications, it appears Mr Tinubu failed to learn any tangible lesson from history.
Prior to the Osun gubernatorial election in 2018 which Gboyega Oyetola, his nephew, narrowly won, Mr Tinubu had made an infamous statement at the palace of the Ataoja of Osogbo, Jimoh Olanipekun, during a courtesy call on the traditional ruler.
In the video, Mr Tinubu said that he was not projecting his nephew, Mr Oyetola, to become Osun governor so he could make money from the state. He boasted that Osun is not rich enough for him to be interested in its money.
The statement reportedly irked many indigenes of the state who took turns to condemn Mr Tinubu, who is believed to be nursing a presidential ambition ahead of the 2023 general elections.
At the time, as it became clear his party might lose the election, Mr Tinubu made spirited efforts to clarify his infamous statement, all to no avail.
According to multiple reports on the verbal slip, many Osun voters resolved to vote the candidate of the PDP in the election, Ademola Adeleke, who was coasting home to victory until the election was declared inconclusive by INEC.
Mr Oyetola eventually won the supplementary election after the APC had cut deals with Iyiola Omisore, then chieftain of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Moshood Adeoti, a former Secretary to the State Government, to secure their support in the supplementary election. Even then, the supplementary election was condemned by local and international observers as it was characterised by voter intimidation and violence.
Till today, the PDP in Osun State still believes it won the 2018 election in the state, saying it was rigged out through the instrumentality of federal might, a euphemism for the ruling party at the national level using federal forces to compromise elections to its advantage.
A way forward for Mr Tinubu
Going forward, a handful of analysts have admonished Mr Tinubu to do whatever he has to do to support the candidate of the APC in any election behind the scene without making statements that can be weaponised by the opposition to curry the sympathy of voters, the real deciders of who wins or loses in an election.
Perhaps Mr Tinubu will take a cue from the shellacking the APC got in the Edo election to tread softly as the Ondo governorship election approaches.
Although Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, the candidate of the APC in the October 10 election in Ondo State, has reconciled with him, Mr Tinubu has been advised to avoid making any broadcast or statement that can make the people of the state reject Mr Akeredolu in the election.
In a veiled reference to him, Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President, while congratulating Mr Obaseki on his victory, also appealed to the electorates of Ondo State to reject the godfather (Tinubu) in the October 10 poll in the state.
Mr Abubakar, presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2019 presidential election, told the voters in Ondo State to free themselves from ” the oppressive grasp of godfathers and external forces that seek to dominate your will and eviscerate your treasury. It is possible. Edo has done it. You can do it too!”
Well, will Mr Tinubu listen to the admonition of those telling him to avoid making statements that can be used to demarket whomever he supports in an election or hold on to strategies that have proven to be counter-productive? Time will tell.